Steve Hillage spent the first half of 1971 forming and rehearsing his group, which he named Khan for “no particular reason except that it seemed to sound good – it has since been remarked that it is also an anagram for the Egyptian word Ankh”, i.e. life. By the time of their first gig at London’s Central School of Art in June 1971, Khan consisted of Hillage plus three musicians who had a long shared history of playing music together, which will be the focus of this post.
Actually the process that led to this line-up wasn’t quite as straightforward as it may seem. Initially, Hillage had only approached bassist/vocalist Nick Greenwood, whom he told me…
…was a very impressive musician. He had been the bass player with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and had subsequently spent a long period in California trying to launch his own project. I decided to work with him because I wanted to go in a more “rock” direction and I was also quite happy to have a bit of an American influence to try and offset my very “English-sounding” compositions.
Hillage and Greenwood had first met on July 20th 1968 [to be precise] when Uriel supported The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown during their ill-fated summer season at the Ryde Castle Hotel on the Isle of Wright. Greenwood (born Sean Nicholas Greenwood, March 2nd 1948, a.k.a. Sean Nicholas) had been involved in Brown’s band from the outset, playing on their eponymous album, but by the time of the Ryde Castle Hotel gig original organist Vincent Crane and drummer Drachen Theacker had both left. Crane had been replaced in June by Dick Heninghem (born August 8th 1944) while the band were on tour in the US. Remembers the latter :
The tour had ground to a halt in New York City. Vincent Crane had OD’d on drugs so I was roped in as a replacement along with [Canadian drummer] Jeff Cutler. They called me in England, so I went, finished the tour for them, got sacked and then re-hired to do various things including the Isle of Wight gig, and also the “Time for Blackburn” TV show in Southampton and the Joe Loss Pop radio show in Regent Street.
Jeff just did the US tour and never came to England, so the drummer must have been a stand-in. It definitely wasn’t Drachen, I never played with him. I’m sure Carl Palmer hadn’t been hired – we’d only just come back from the States. In fact I don’t think I ever played with Carl either – I was at his first rehearsal with CWOAB, but by then a new keyboard player had been hired.
Greenwood and Heninghem had been friends and musical partners for a long time at that point, as the latter recalls :
Nick and I grew up together in a little village in Hertfordshire called Newgate Street, and for some reason he and his brother picked me – a piano player – in preference to getting a rhythm guitarist for their band, Mickey Mann & the 3 Dimensions. This was around 1963. We then thrashed around with various line-ups, and I was headhunted into a band in Cuffley who already had a bass player. I agreed to join as long as they took Nick as well, so we had two bass players for a while. Suffice it to say that rapidly got pruned down to keys, bass, guitar [Dick Wall] and drums. We also hired a singer called Owen Finnegan, and that was the original line-up of The Soul Concern.
Some time later, there was a change of drummer and this is where Eric Peachey (born January 26th 1947) entered the picture, from a band called RBQ.
That was short for The Rhythm’n’Blues Quartet – not terribly original, but they were very, very good players. I’d started playing around 1963-64. I went to an audition with a friend who was a drummer. I was playing bass at the time, actually, and a little bit of guitar. He got the job but couldn’t make the gig – it was a little wedding band. I thought, ‘Well, I can handle that’, so I volunteered to do the gig, played it and then forgot about it. About a year later, a local band came round and said, ‘We hear you’re a drummer. We’ve got a drum kit and somewhere to rehearse, would you like to come and play with us ?’ They were into R’n’B, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf – The Rolling Stones were just becoming popular around that time. We did a lot of local gigs, and were picked up by a chap called Bob Anthony, who was a professional wrestler – his professional name was Doctor Death, but he was a very gentle guy… And a very good businessman ! He ran a club called The Cromwellian in Knightsbridge, and we played on the bill with all the major acts. We were like the resident support band. The other guys were all from the local grammar school. We all had very long hair then, which was quite outrageous. We had a big following, but didn’t actually do any recording, we just drifted apart.
Peachey then joined The Soul Concern…
It was called that just to indicate what happened at that time. It was a soul band, so they were called the Soul Concern, then we ended up being called Cashmere Bouquet. We were showering the audiences with petals or whatever. That was very much a psychedelic band by then.
As Heninghem recalls :
The name was my idea – well, it was the era of flower power ! It was a good band – just a 4 piece, and we used to do Hendrix and Zappa songs – but the guitarist and drummer were serious blues players and Nick and I wanted to go prog (King Crimson et al), so it split.
Nick Greenwood’s departure to join Arthur Brown in late 1967 left Peachey without a band.
I auditioned for a band called Doctor K’s Blues Band, which were a North London blues band, full of enthusiastic, very knowledgeable guys : Richard Kay on the piano, Roger Rolt on slide bottleneck guitar… Very much Chicago-style, hard-driving blues, with a bit of a country feel as well. We made an album, which was recorded in one afternoon, down in Denmark Street. That band was together for a couple of years. We were very popular – we were working a lot, up and down the country. In those days there was a healthy college scene. And the blues circuit, especially, was very busy, very good. We were working 4-5 nights a week. Very exciting time ! Then around 1969-70, I left K’s, because I was looking for something that was more progressive.
While Peachey was busy with Doctor K, Greenwood and Heninghem were reunited in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, which quickly led to them embarking on a parallel project which would result in Greenwood’s Cold Cuts album. A triggering event was meeting Marc Chase, who [as part of Pinnacle Dance Concerts] was the promoter of the final L.A. dates of the June 1968 US tour. Chase’s sister Michele and Greenwood began a relationship and, remembers Heninghem :
In the Autumn and Winter of 1968-69, Nick and I were living in a cottage belonging to Barbara Cartland in Wild Hill, Hertfordshire and we started writing the stuff that ended up on Cold Cuts. We very nearly got a contract with Chas Chandler, but he pulled out because of the oil crisis which seemed it would affect the production of vinyl records. Nick and Michele moved back to L.A. and Marc agreed to finance the project – I could tell you where he got the money from but I prefer not to !
By late 1969, arrangements had been made for recording to begin. Peachey and Heninghem joined Greenwood in California. Heninghem :
We flew out on 6th January 1970 and lived in a crummy old people’s hotel in Pasadena and had our own rehearsal hall with B3 Hammond, drum kit and backline. We had no money at all and lived on stews. The band was a three-piece, although we did rehearse and play with an American sax player called Jon Hill. The guitarists on the album came in late and I never met them. A lot of folks came by to jam – the Mothers, Argent, T-Bone Walker etc. We demoed some of the stuff in San Francisco with [Blood Sweat & Tears producer] Fred Catero, and eventually finished the album in Richard Barcellona’s studio in Hollywood, working at night. When we were going mad with hunger, poverty and frustration, Marc would take us to restaurants and concerts by The Band, Zappa’s Hot Rats etc.
While in L.A., the trio played a few gigs – probably no more than three, Heninghem remembers.
We did a few gigs around L.A., and somehow got the job of playing in the amphitheatre of Universal Studios, playing to an audience of nil, apart from an army of sound engineers checking out the volume on the perimeter, to see if they could organise concerts there without annoying the neighbours.
By the late Spring or early Summer, it was time to return to England. Remembers Peachey :
We were in America for about 3-4 months. It was a struggle, financially. We had very little money. I’d sold my drum kit, and arrived in America with £90 in my pocket – that was it, no return flight ! It was a very difficult situation. It ended quite acrimonious.
Adds Heninghem :
Eric and I came back together. He was fed up and I wanted to get back together with my future wife. Nick stayed on to do the flute, guitar, strings, vocal overdubs and the final mixing. Marc couldn’t sell the album to an American record company, although he got close, and eventally sold the master to Terry King, who released it in the UK, France and Holland.
This, however, wouldn’t happen until 1972, by which time Heninghem had long left Khan and Greenwood was about to. A frequent misconception is that Cold Cuts was recorded by Greenwood after leaving Khan, but in fact the tapes were two years old at the time of release. Remembers Heninghem :
I think Nick was still in Khan when he came round to my house with the test pressing and to discuss a possible release on Kingdom. He also got me to type out all the details including all the words. I still have this test pressing and my original notes. There was no attempt at promotion when it finally came out. My contract with Terry King had gone and so, presumably, had Nick’s.
Only a limited number of LPs were pressed and Cold Cuts soon became a very rare album, selling for outrageous prices on the second hand market until CD reissues belatedly appeared, none of which had the blessing of the principals, as Heninghem insists :
It has been released on limited edition in the US and twice on Akarma in Italy. Have we received any royalties ? NO – we bloody haven’t !
In the next instalment, we will return to Khan and look at how Greenwood, Heninghem and Peachey came to be reunited in the original line-up.